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International Parks
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America’s Beautiful Parks Under UN Control

By James Donahue

The word is that some of our elected legislators in Washington are at least thinking out loud about selling national parks and lands to help pay off the national debt. Unfortunately the late President Richard M. Nixon has beaten them to it.

At least it was while Nixon was in office, in 1972, that our government signed the United Nations’ World Heritage Treaty, a document that appears to have turned control of 20 of our finest national parks and buildings plus 51 million acres of national wilderness under UN control. This amounts to 68 percent of all national parks, monuments and preserves are no longer sovereign properties.
Included in the treaty are Yellowstone National Park, The Grand Canyon, the Florida Everglades, Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument, the Brooklyn Bridge, Independence Hall in Philadelphia and even Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello.

What is interesting is that while Washington lawmakers agreed to turn control of these properties over to the UN, the treaty maintains that the United States remains obliged to protect and maintain these sites under UN mandate.

And therein is found a peculiar paradox. While protest organizations formed to “save the national parks” from UN control and speeches were made opposing the loss of US sovereignty, it may turn out that the very act of turning these lands over to UN control might just have saved them from the ravages of private ownership, logging, oil well drilling the mining.

There are private companies just champing at the bit to get their hands on some of those lands, and there are enough greedy legislators around Washington these days willing to let them grab it.

Unfortunately 23 percent of the national parks and lands are not under UN control, nor are most state-owned lands. And the inevitable is happening; the lands are slowly slipping away into private ownership.

We recently took a scenic drive to the tip of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula to view the magnificent autumn colors. It’s a tour we like to make every fall, from Houghton to Copper Harbor, then west along Lake Superior on our way back. This always was raw and beautiful property, either owned and protected by the state or by private owners. I never knew which.

We were shocked this year to see several new homes being built along the lake shore. They were going to be large and expensive homes, occupied by the ultra-rich. It was a tragic thing for us to see because it means another public treasure has been taken from us.

Can the treaty be broken? Possibly not. In 2002 the late Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire introduced The American Land Sovereignty Protection Act. It never got enough support to become law. And this was probably a good thing. It would have given Congress a final say over anything the United Nations wanted to do, or not allow to be done to those sacred public lands.

The way our Republican controlled Congress has behaved this term, it appears we cannot trust them.